We're toying with our own payment wallet idea: Amit Jain

Ride-hailing app Uber, which started working with digital wallet service providers such as Paytm and Airtel Money after the Reserve Bank of India had in 2014 mandated two-factor authentication for credit card payments, is now perusing the option to have its own payment wallet. Uber India President Amit Jain talks to K Rajani Kanth about the company's payment strategies, investment plans and new product roll-outs in India. Edited excerpts:

Have you approached RBI to have your own wallet?

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We continue to have conversations on the right payments strategies. In the US, all transactions are done through credit and debit cards. In India, we have much wider options than any other country. So, we continue to evaluate options on whether we should have our own wallet. We have not yet reached a conclusion on this.

RBI has mandated two-factor authentication (TFA) for the security of consumers. While it has certain benefits, it also has some disadvantages because the consumer need to enter multiple digits after a ride. This doesn’t exist in the US. So, we are looking at valid options to provide a seamless payment experience for consumers.

How is your investment plan panning out in India?

We had committed $1 billion in India sometime last year. We are on our way to utilising those investments across all areas of our business, including expansion to multiple cities, growing in existing markets, investment in the centre of excellence in Hyderabad and the recently-opened engineering office in Bengaluru.

In how many cities are you currently present and how many more cities are you planning to expand your footprint?

We are present in 26 cities. Our strategy is not to expand to 100 cities or so as soon as possible. Our strategy is to focus on the cities where we are present, to make sure the quality of our product and services is best in those cities and then expand. So, you will see us expanding slowly into several cities, but it is not going to be 100 or 200 cities.

How long will Uber in India stay in losses? What exactly is your long-term strategy?

Our objective is to increase our loyalty to the riders by providing them with better experience and better quality. That means, cleaner cars, courteous drivers and transparency in pricing. From a driver’s perspective, it is payments on time and resolution of all support issues. We are committed to investing in India as long as needed. It is a very strategic market for us.

What is your path to profitability? When will you achieve operational break even?

It requires a lot of investment to grow and build any market. We are in that phase and we will continue to invest and grow in this market. We have not set any time lines for profitability etc because if competition is irrational, all those timelines will go out of the window. We are a for-profit company. We are profitable in many markets around the world. We started in those markets in similar situations that we are in India now. Our objective is to be there (profitability) very soon.

Are you looking at any inorganic growth opportunities?

Over the past five-and-a-half years that we have been in existence (globally), we grew organically across all markets. We have not made any acquisitions. Can that change, going forward? May be yes. But, that is not our strategy. Our processes are automated and robust to build scale and so we never felt the need for acquisitions.

Have you planned any new product roll-outs for this year?

We recently launched UberPool and UberCommute in Delhi and Bengaluru. Uber Pool is a product that we launched in San Francisco several years ago. Today, 50 per cent of trips in San Francisco are on Uber Pool. We expect UberPool and UberCommute to grow our trips here as well. You will see us expanding these two products across the top eight Tier-I cities in India this year.

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